Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Ghosts: Pumpkins Muffins with Crumble Topping

Happy Halloween!!
Today, my husband has "goodie day" at his work. I was undecided about what to make, and he had no suggestions. Previously, I had made these "ghosts" and they were screaming to come off the cupboard shelf and be used. They are a simple way to make any goodie festive with today's holiday. I glued 2 plastic craft eyes onto a Texas sized muffin paper, made my muffins, and put them in their costume. Be proactive, and make it a great day!

Pumpkins Muffins with Crumble Topping

1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
3/8 tsp. ground gloves
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
3 T soft butter

I lazily toss dry ingredients and then add the wet. As a muffin, don’t over mix.
Bake them at 350 degrees. Time depends on size of baking cup. I prefer Texas size muffins.
Mom always added 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 6 oz. chocolate chips, omitting the cloves. Then she would glaze the cooled bread with a clove infused powdered sugar glaze.
I often substitute some whole wheat flour, scant the cup of sugar, use skim milk instead of buttermilk, and skip the nuts and chocolate inside. This way, I feel okay about having two!

I do like to pretty it up with a simple crumble on top:
1T cold butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup oatmeal.
I pulse it in the Cusinart for a bit and throw in a few tablespoons of mini chocolate chips and chopped pecans.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Scarecrow Cookies

Today is all about scaring away the pain in my finger! My choice of extra curricular activities isn't always obviously in line with my age. Fortunately, I've found similar aged playmates to agree that we can still hoop it up in our 40's. However, injuries are common. Yesterday, apparently it was my turn to get hurt. It's just a little hurt, so these cute little cookies are just the right kind of scaring. :)
The idea is from Pillsbury's Easy Halloween Treats cookbook. And also seen here-

1/4 cup vanilla ready-to-spread frosting (from 16-oz can)
10 creme-filled vanilla sandwich cookies
10 biscuits bite-size shredded whole wheat cereal, crushed.
5 large multi-colored "orange slices"
10 pieces candy corn
Black decorating gel (from 0.68-oz tube)
Spread 1 slightly rounded teaspoon frosting on each cookie. For each scarecrow cookie, place shreds of biscuits on 2 sides of each frosted cookie to resemble hair. Place 1/2 orange slice, cut width wise , on cookie, Place 1 piece candy corn on cookie to resemble nose. Use black decorating gel to make eyes, mouth and hatband.

These go together quickly for a welcome home treat for kids of all ages, and anyone who needs to scare away the pain of the day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Ghost Brownies

No one has carved a pumpkin at my house this year. In fact, no one has bought them yet, or gone to a “patch” to pick one out. Sadly, no one here has even asked if we are going to get a pumpkin or two. I have failed as a Halloween parent ;(
But I don’t understand why. Although I’m not much into dressing up- (I would if someone just gave me the costume to wear- it’s the thinking about what to wear that derails me). I love Halloween.
Growing up in our small Iowa town, we managed our own back yard garden, our elderly neighbor’s plot and a ¼ acre lot across town. This gave us plenty of space to grow everyone’s favorite fruits and vegetables, everyone’s least favorite vegetable (beets), and lots and lots of pumpkins.
Beginning mid-October, our family would haul our pumpkin crop up to the town square and on the vacant corner lot, across the street from “the” gas station, we would sell our pumpkins.
There were still many left for us to each carve our own scary face and light up the porch for Halloween. I’m sure I’ll find my way to the grocery store this week, buy a few token gourds, and make my kids have fun carving them, but until then, we will celebrate the upcoming holiday by indulging in these treats:

Halloween Ghost Brownies

1 brownie mix, made as directed. I baked one mix per 12 regular sized muffin tins for 20 minutes.
Place a large marshmallow on each brownie.
Spoon glaze over the top, covering the marshmallow, leaving a “puddle” at the base. You can make your own glaze or do as I did by shortcutting this step. I heated canned frosting in the microwave until it was glaze consistency.
Once the glaze is nearly set, gently push Mini M&M eyeballs and a mouth into the glaze to make the ghost face. If you wait too long, as I did for some of mine, use a dab of frosting to “glue” the eyes and mouth on.

Let set, and share or scare your friends and neighbors!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

J had a rough day yesterday. 7th grade school volleyball ended the day before. In just a few short weeks, she had truly grown to love the sport. Her team only had one win the entire season, but she found joy in the daily process of developing new skills. She came home yesterday and called a friend she hasn't spent much time with since volleyball season began. Her friend had chores, but could meet up later. J took her volleyball outside and did a little setting with her brother while she waited.
I was pulling weeds and reminded her she would have to reschedule with her friend as we had both forgot about her soccer practice. She is playing soccer on a co-ed team and doesn't care for it one bit. She thought she would be paired up more to play against girls from the other team, but such has not been the case. She is the second tallest team member, and coach uses that as his guide for pairing. She feels out matched one on one against her competitor every game. I have taken great delight every time she gets frustrated and shoves her (male) competitor. Its always after the play, when the referee isn't looking. A smile comes across my face as I see this that is slow to recede. Nevertheless, she wishes soccer was over.
A short time after reminding her she had soccer practice, she called her friend to reschedule. The series of disappointments seemed too much for her and within moments, she left to go inside. A short time later, I came in. Her eyes were red and swollen. She wasn't talking. I knew not to make a big deal of it, but I was really glad I had finally successfully made these Peanut Butter Brownie Cups. It was the perfect treat to take her mind off of her troubles.
A friend had made them a few weeks ago, directed me to the website and I've played around ever since. Of course I used a brownie mix, and a little more peanut butter than called for.

Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

1 brownie mix, made as directed. (I used Ghiradelli because I wanted the chunks of chocolate)
Spoon brownie batter into 12 muffin baking cups, with or without paper liners. Sprinkle some peanut butter chips in the center of each one. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let the centers drop a bit as they begin to cool. You can drop the centers a bit further with the back of a spoon. Put a rounded teaspoon of peanut butter in the center of each brownie cup and then sprinkle with semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Then, carefully observe your surroundings. Someone you know has had a rough day and could use the lift this indulgent treat promises to deliver.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Spider Cookies

For Family Night last night, we rolled back the clock a few years—quite a few and made some treats that were more typical in our kitchen a decade ago. I saw the idea, forgot where I saw it, and so we made these treats off of what I thought they might be. Funny enough, then I remembered where I’d seen the idea (typical day in my 40s) and had made them as I remembered—they really are that simple ;)
Here is the link:

Peanut Butter Spider Cookies

1 pouch Betty Crocker® peanut butter cookie mix
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
36 chewy caramels in milk chocolate
Black or red string licorice
1/3 cup (72) miniature candy-coated chocolate baking bits
Betty Crocker® black decorating gel (from 0.68-oz tube)
Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, oil, water and egg until dough forms.
Shape dough into 36 (1-inch) balls. On ungreased cookie sheets, place 2 inches apart.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately press 1 chewy caramel in center of each cookie. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.
Cut licorice into 8 (2-inch) pieces for each spider. Attach legs by sticking into chewy caramel. Use baking bits for eyes and black gel to make pupils in eyes.

We also made a batch with miniature Reese's.

Simple and cute- just like Halloween a decade ago.

We combined some of the most recent treats we’ve made and put together a plate of “Spider Infested Corn”.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Halloween Spider Cookies- Simplified

We had a grand family weekend. My husband and I took Y and J to a college football game. We parked about a mile from the stadium and walked toward the stadium amongst a sea of home team orange and black. We were there to cheer on our Alma mater, the visiting team. Nevertheless, it was a thrill to feel the energy of a college town erupting in game day- home town pride.
I delighted in walking past tent after tent of tailgaters. I quickly scanned the menu at each private party and noted there was little variation from hamburgers, hotdogs, and chips. One tent had a notably large stack of leftover brownies. As we were nearing the stadium, the crowd still tailgating at this tent was small. I thought about asking for a brownie-- but the closer I got, the more I realized they looked a little dry ;)
All the way home from the game I thought about warm pulled pork, bacon BBQ chicken, and seasoned brisket sandwiches.
We arrived home happy for our opportunity, but a little worn out. So my efforts for today's treat are a simplified version of these spider cookies.

The ideas are similar.
Take two cookies (I used Famous Amos Chocolate Chip and Oreos), frost each side, lay "spider legs" (string licorice) in frosting and put frosting sides together to form a cookie sandwich. Attach "eyes (mini M&Ms) with a frosting dot.

Share and scare!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Double Chocolate Halloween Spider Cookies

I watched a short home video last night of when the boys were 2 and 4. The footage was taken shortly before we embarked on an adventure to move out east outside of the Washington D. C. area. They were playing with the neighbor kids.
Back when I lived in a neighborhood with young kids, I used to make a greater effort with special holiday baking- especially for holidays like Halloween. This year, despite my kids being older, I'm bringing out some recipes I haven't made in a lot of years and some new ones I've recently seen.
The fall we moved out east was filled with transitions. The kids had to transition from having friends and neighbors to play with to spending more time with just each other. They did this well. B took the lead and Y was happy to follow along. B would ask "Do you wanna play cars?"
Y always answered with an enthusiastic "yeah!!" usually while extending both arms in the air.
No matter what B would choose for an activity, Y would follow along. Y was B's wing-man, his shadow...even his Robin...So it fits that they were Batman and Robin for Halloween.
Get your kids, friends and neighbors excited for Halloween this year by making these Spider Cookies.

Double Chocolate Spider Cookies

Begin by making a double batch of Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies. I omitted the chocolate chips.

While they are cooling, dip a pretzel stick 3/4 of the way into melted chocolate. Tap gently and lay on waxed paper to set.

For assembly:
Frost the bottoms of the entire double batch of cookies.
Then place 8 spider legs (dipped pretzel sticks) -non-chocolate end in the frosted side of a cookie.
Put another frosted cookie (frosting side down) on top to form a sandwich cookie.
Finish with mini M&Ms for eyes on a dot of frosting.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Caramel Popcorn

I had the opportunity to visit my parents last weekend. It was Dad’s birthday. He is 70. He is a man of great wisdom, faith and love. He has taught his family the need for unwavering hard work through his quiet example. My last morning “home” I went to the kitchen to make a treat. With Dad at my side, helping me along the way we began to pop some popcorn in preparation.
“Tell me about the time we gleaned the fields.” Dad said. “I don’t remember it as well as you.”
“That’s because your thumbs weren’t blistered.” My sister laughed as she sat nearby cutting coupons.
I retold the story to Dad with all the details. He grinned in approval. By the time I finished the account with life lessons tied in, we had our first batch of Caramel Popcorn laid out ready to set.

Caramel Popcorn

1 cup butter
½ corn syrup
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
Bring to a boil the 4 ingredients listed above. Remove from heat, and add:
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
Toss the caramel mixture with:
3-4 bags of popped microwave popcorn

After the popcorn is evenly tossed, spread out on greased cookie sheets or aluminum foil. Let set.

Dad and I finished the second big batch of caramel popcorn as we visited about B on his mission, Y readying for college, and J playing volleyball. I then took a seat near my sister and watched in amazement as she clipped hundreds of coupons and sorted them in her binder. We chatted and took great delight in my niece and her friend who were happily riding bikes, and sampling caramel popcorn as they waited for the time to go to afternoon Kindergarten. Before long, Mom had gathered cellophane bags and ribbon. She separated the set caramel popcorn into pieces as she packed them in bags for friends and neighbors. After taking me to the airport, Mom and Dad delivered the treat bags. Their greeting at one door was unmistakably their favorite. The young girl at the door saw my Mom’s familiar face, looked at the two large treat bags in Mom’s hands and simply said, “I love you!”
My thoughts exactly- “I love you Mom! I love you Dad! It was good to come home even if just for a few days. And yes, next time I’ll bring your grand kids with me.”